Thick, deeply savory sauces aren’t what typically come to mind when you think of Mexican cuisine. But, Mole sauces (or the “curry” of Mexico) are amazing, complex, and so very traditional. They’re made with unexpected ingredients like chocolate and prunes, and every one is been slightly different.
Just as with Indian curries, there’s no set recipe for mole sauce, though there are some common characteristics. Ground nuts and seeds are often used as thickeners, while spices like cinnamon and cloves balance out the bright chile flavors. Often noticed is a balance of sweet and savory elements in mole sauces, which accounts for their incredible depth of flavor. I LOVE combining sweet and savory, much to the chagrin of my better half.
Mole negro is probably the most well-known version of mole in the good old U.S. of A., and it’s almost always made with bittersweet chocolate, ground almonds, and charred chile peppers. Mole rojo is similar, but it’s made without the chocolate and has an brighter spicy flavor. Green and yellow moles are made with fresh ingredients like epazote, Mexican oregano, and marjoram.
With those delicious ingredients, who wouldn’t mind spooning out a serving and simply shoveling it down the hatch?
Well, to be more elegant, the rich and delicious sauce is typically served over chicken or pork.
But, what about being a little a-typical, and mixing things up a bit? Rather than using dark chocolate this time, I decided to bring a little FALL into the pot and simmer the sauce with my favorite winter squash: kabocha – and a few other items of amazement.
1/2 small kabocha squash, peeled, halved
1/2 pound tomatillos (about 4 medium), husks removed, rinsed
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 bag chamomile tea, tea removed from bag
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
3 whole cloves
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns
2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tsp. Himalayan sea salt crystals
1/4 cup jarred roasted chestnuts
2 Tbs. chile paste
juice of 1/2 lime
Preheat oven to 450. Bake both the kabocha and tomatillos until soft (squash should be about 45 minutes – tomatillos about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Dry toast the pecans, walnuts, cashews, and hazelnuts, and pumpkin seeds over low heat in a large pan on the stove, until golden brown and fragrant, 5–7 minutes. Let cool.
Dry toast all spices in a large skillet over medium-low, tossing constantly, until spices are fragrant and skillet just begins to smoke, about 3 minutes. Let cool. Finely grind spices in spice mill or with mortar and pestle to a fine powder.
Combine squash, tomatillos, toasted nuts and seeds, 2 heaping tablespoons of the spice blend, chestnuts, chile paste, and lime juice in a high speed blender. Puree until super smooth.
Inhale the intoxicating aroma of pure deliciousness.
Serve over chicken, pork, or veggies.
Congratulations, you’ve just knocked the ball out of the park!